Saturday, March 6, 2004

Driver's doggoned if he'll pay that ticket



By Perry Schaible
Enquirer contributor

[photo]
Michael Cunningham says that Smokie and Peanut are too small to obstruct his vision, even while sitting in his lap while he drives.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/MEGGAN BOOKER
MIDDLETOWN - The $85 traffic ticket issued to Michael Cunningham by a Middletown police officer says, under offense: "Driver's view obstructed."

Cunningham, 55, said he's not paying the ticket because he did nothing wrong. And he is prepared to take his "passengers" to Middletown Municipal Court March 17 to prove it.

Police say Cunningham's view was obstructed by his two Yorkshire terriers - Smokie and Peanut - neither of which stands more than 10 inches tall.

"These dogs are not as high as the steering wheel when they're sitting on my lap," Cunningham said Thursday.

He says he was leaving Smith Park Feb. 23, the first warm day of the year, with his dogs when he was pulled over. Cunningham says the officer stated he was pulled over because his dogs weren't secured in the vehicle and then cited him.

"To me this is ridiculous. You've got all these kids out here speeding ... and they're worried about a 55-year-old man with a little doggie in the truck," Cunningham said.

He appeared before Judge Mark Wall on Wednesday, telling him he wanted to plead not guilty to the traffic charge.

"I don't care what it costs. I feel I'm not guilty and I'm not paying them $85," Cunningham said.

The case is set for trial March 17.

Maj. Mike Bruck, of the Middletown Police Department, said officials don't withdraw charges once a citation is issued. Bruck, who isn't aware of a similar citation issued by the department, said police are looking into whether the ticket should have been issued.

Officials with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Cincinnati said they recommend owners tether their dogs when in a vehicle.

Many pet stores carry dog seat belts or similar types of restraints.

Joe Sterle, manager of Pets N Such in Mason, said the restraints attach to a seat belt. Most cost between $15 and $30 and come in three sizes. They are not big sellers, he said.

Sterle said he hasn't had any specific requests for the interior restraints.

Sterle said there has been greater interest in restraints for pickup truckbeds.

Cunningham, meanwhile, will continue to walk his dogs at Smith Park.

"I'm still doing the same thing. I live alone and these dogs are like my little kids. I take them with me everywhere I go," Cunningham said.




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